German Interior Minister and leader of the Bavarian Christian Democrats (CSU) Horst Seehofer has put all his weight behind the former spymaster Hans-Georg Maassen.
Maassen‘s removal last week was sparked by the 55-year-old’s open challenge to German Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s political credibility.
Merkel accused the far-right Alternative for German (AfD) of stirring up racial tensions in Chemnitz after a local resident was fatally stabbed in late August. A Syrian and Iraqi national were arrested in connection to the murder and have been held in pre-trial detention for the last several weeks.
The AfD has since organised a series of public rallies that included the harassment of migrant and minority groups.
Maassen publicly contradicted Merkel’s claims and argued that there was little evidence of organised far-right violence against immigrants following the Chemnitz events. He also claimed that footage showing hate groups attacking non-ethnic Germans might have been the product of an intentional disinformation campaign. He did not present any evidence for that claim.
The decline of Christian Democrats
Maassen was dismissed last week as the head of the federal secret service bureau.
Simultaneously, he was hired and effectively promoted to senior advisor of the Minister of Interior with a bigger salary.
On the countdown to Bavarian state elections on October 14, Seehofer appears to be running both as a member of government and opposition. In an interview with the Bild newspaper, Seehofer said that Maassen does not take “right-wing extremist position” and, therefore, he should not be dismissed.
An Emnid poll published on Saturday suggests the confrontation between the Bavarian CSU and the Christian Democrats is mutually destructive.
The appeal of the CSU has dropped to a record low of 28% according to the last four national polls (13-19 September: Forsa, INSA, Infratest Dimap, Emnid).
Overall, the three-party coalition government is unstable.
Senior members of the Social Democrats are demanding the withdrawal of support for the government, expressing their dismay at his pay rise.
Paradoxically, Chancellor Merkel emerged as a mediator between SPD and CSU on Sunday, brokering a deal in which Maassen retains his position as an advisor to Seehofer but does not receive a pay rise.
SPD leader Andrea Nahles said the government will now focus to day-to-day business.
The SPD’s compromise has been dismissed by members as “spineless” and social democrats have seen their nationwide polling tumble below AfD in two of the four opinion surveys published last week.
SPD now polls 16,5% to 17% while AfD ranges from15% to 18%.
Moreover, Merkel’s apparently successful mediation does little to boost the Chancellor’s own credibility.
In an open letter to the leadership of the three-party coalition, the general secretary of the CDU Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer asked wondered whether coalition partners “can continue to unite together behind the common mission,” Reuters reports.